“Knives Out” Second Trailer Review!

In an attempt to resurrect the “cozy” murder mystery genre, director Rian Johnson may have opened the door to something far bigger. The mystery he has crafted in Knives Out looks engaging, twisty, and very much in the style of Agatha Christie – so much so, that it makes one wonder how Kenneth Branagh will respond, in his upcoming adaptation of an actual Christie work: Death On The Nile. With so few of the classic detectives of literature being moved to the big screen (even Sherlock has been suspiciously absent from the scene recently), and with Knives Out looking to be a surefire hit as it lands a Rotten Tomatoes score high in the 90’s, there’s inevitably going to be conflict between Branagh’s Hercule Poirot and Daniel Craig’s new addition to the scene, the enigmatic Detective Benoit Blanc, both with critics and audiences.

There’s also a large possibility that Knives Out is only the first in a slew of Benoit Blanc mysteries: though Johnson would be hard-pressed to match the prolific mystery-writers of days gone by, he might not have such a difficult time at all surpassing the competition in theaters: gritty crime thrillers are popular, as are courtroom dramas on TV, but when was the last time you actually saw a cozy mystery movie?

The only significant difficulty I could see arising is that Johnson’s movie, as of right now, looks to be either intentionally satirical of, or unintentionally derivative of the classics. Leaving aside the dapper British detective with an oddly outdated name (and a killer green suit, with a bold purple tie), we also have:

The Real Estate Mogul – a staple of mysteries, here played by Jamie Lee Curtis in a blue velvet pantsuit (and absolutely rocking that pantsuit, by the way). Her husband, played by Don Johnson, is the Desperate Son-In-Law, drink in hand, dressed as a Texas oil-tycoon version of Professor Plum in all purple attire.

The Playboy – a foul-mouthed Chris Evans, with an amazing fashion sense. Seriously, where do you even buy a scarf like that? Where do you buy pinstripe pants in this day and age?

The Lifestyle Guru – Toni Collette, looking like a Twitter-savvy parody of Democratic Party candidate Marianne Williamson. Again, dressed to perfection in high-waisted purple balloon pants.

And so on and so on; an entire cast of familiar tropes and archetypes spiraling outwards from their dead patriarch (who might as well be Mr. Body from Clue). In fact, speaking of Clue, each of the character posters is deliberately color coded in what appears to be a nod to the classic murder mystery game. They’ve even got a giant mansion with secret passages and the like – and, for whatever reason, they’ve also got something that looks like Game Of Thrones‘ Iron Throne set up in their living room. In fact, if you’d like to see the posters (I could stare at them all day), you can see them all here.

I assume Johnson will subvert expectations and turn these tropes upside-down and inside-out, because he likes doing that – The Last Jedi speaks volumes about his bravery as a filmmaker. Perhaps he’s pulling a Neil Simon and writing a parody: though it looks serious, and the mystery looks rich with detail and layer, even if it appears quite simple on the surface. But while I don’t know whodunnit, I know this much: whoever Johnson’s costume designer is deserves an Oscar nomination at the very least, because…wow.

What did you think of the trailer? Will you see Knives Out in theaters? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Trailer Rating: 8/10

“Secret Garden” Trailer Review!

Will we ever get a good adaptation of The Secret Garden, the classic early 20th Century children’s story by Frances Hodgson Burnett? The 1993 film definitely missed the mark by about a mile, stripping the story of any sense of whimsy: but it came closer to the spirit of the original novel than this new film, which appears (at least from the first trailer) to be heavy on whimsical CGI, and light on charm.

Somehow, the filmmakers behind this upcoming family-movie have decided that the secret garden itself is an endlessly unfolding Mary Poppins purse of adventure, a seemingly limitless wardrobe to Narnia, or a portal to some Hogwarts-esque theme-park filled with ruined temples, jungle fauna, literal magic…basically, Mary Poppins, Narnia and Harry Potter entangled in some boring rip-off of all three that manages to be both offensive to the source material and thoroughly uninteresting as a movie in its own right.

The trailer does showcase Colin Firth and Julie Walters, thankfully, because they’re basically the only things going for this film – which comes from David Heyman, the producer of Harry Potter (coincidence? I think not – no, really, I think not) and Paddington – and future producer of an adaptation based on a story very dear to my childhood heart, the Warriors Cats series from British author(s) Erin Hunter. This trailer honestly fills me with dread at what Heyman will want to do to that tale: fill it with CGI cats living in a magical jungle? Perhaps throw some fairies into the mix while he’s at it?

And what on earth is this horrendous block-letter title-font? It looks like something straight out of Jumanji, or the recent logo for Dora And The Lost City Of Gold. The thought that anyone could take a simple story about two kids playing in a garden and turn it into what looks like a high-stakes adventure movie with special effects wizardry is truly discouraging.

But tell me what you think! Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Trailer Rating: 2/10

“Last Christmas” Second Trailer!

Another trailer has dropped for Last Christmas, so it’s time to revisit the glittery, glitzy Christmas wonderland that director Paul Feig has created, where everybody is singing George Michael and dancing around beautifully-lit London in unnaturally well-tailored outfits: and this time, we’ve got a clearer idea of what our two love-struck protagonists are up to, and what sort of – oh, who am I kidding, let’s get to the good stuff.

Our holiday heroine’s love interest, Tom (Henry Golding), has been rumored to be a ghost/hallucination/guardian angel since the first trailer dropped, with more keen-eyed viewers than me picking up on numerous details that suggested he was, at the very least, an unusual kind of fellow. I was skeptical at the time, but since then (especially since this trailer) a lot has changed…let’s take a look at the evidence.

Throughout this latest trailer, there is a heavy emphasis on the song that inspired both the film’s title, and, supposedly, its plot: but whereas George Michael’s original song refers to Christmas heartbreak, there’s no hint of anything but true love in the film – so what if the inspiration is rather more indirect? Maybe “I gave you my heart” isn’t meant metaphorically, but…physically. In this trailer, our heroine, Kate (Emilia Clarke) narrates about how, last Christmas, she was very sick, and was rushed to a hospital for treatment: what happened there is still conveniently mysterious, but it clearly affected Kate’s life in a bad way – since then, she’s taken to drinking, and has become a moody, selfish person. But now, with another Christmas just around the corner, Kate’s life is suddenly changed by a man named Tom who just randomly shows up one day at her workplace and then runs into her everywhere else she goes – now, one reading of this would be “stalker alert”, but Tom appears to be a decent guy: as in, so decent he literally doesn’t have a bad bone in his body. Does that mean he’s an angel sent to guide Kate into the next chapter of her life? Does it mean he’s the ghost of the heart donor who saved Kate’s life last Christmas by giving her his heart?

Well, not necessarily, no; it could just mean he’s a rom-com protagonist without a whole lot of depth to his character. But the situation has become a lot more intense with these new reveals.

Also, take a look at the title: the heart over the letter “i” is literally beating. At this point, I’ll be hugely disappointed if Tom doesn’t turn out to be a visitor from heaven. Another theory suggests that Tom is actually back for revenge on the woman who’s squandering the heart he gave her, which is…interesting.

And as for the rest of the trailer, it’s pretty good: there’s perhaps a bit too much stuff rehashed from the first teaser, such as the meeting with the doctor, the incident with the hawk, and the “Lazy the Elf” exchange with Michelle Yeoh’s character. Emma Thompson gets a chance to shine, as the nurturing Russian woman who cares for Kate and sings her to sleep at night – something which Kate likens to waterboarding.

So what do you think? Will Tom turn out to be a ghost, an angel, or something else entirely? How does George Michael’s music tie into the film’s plot? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Trailer Rating: 8/10

Netflix’s “Umbrella Academy” Adds To Season 2 Cast!

While the second season of Netflix’s gritty superhero drama Umbrella Academy is still at least a year away (at best), the show has begun filming in Toronto, Canada, with the main cast returning to their instantly-iconic roles. But alongside the Hargreeves siblings, there are three new faces to add to the mix.

Netflix has just cast Ritu Arya, Yusuf Gatewood, and Marin Ireland for what appear to be large roles on the show. So let’s break down who they’re playing, and what their inclusion could mean for the series, and the future of the Umbrella Academy.

First of all, are they playing new members of the Academy – a.k.a. any of the thirty-six other supernaturally-gifted children all mysteriously born on October 1st, 1989? Well, it’s most likely that Arya and Gatewood, who are both around the same age range as the other Hargreeves, could be some of those long lost kids.

Additional confirmation of this could come from the character descriptions released by Netflix: Arya’s character, Lila, is an unpredictable “chameleon who can be as brilliant or as clinically insane as the situation requires”. To my mind, that suggests she has the ability to either shape-shift or, more interestingly, drastically change her personality in such a way that she becomes an entirely different person to any but the most discerning eye. Lila also has a macabre sense of humor: this suggests a villain at first, but pretty much everybody in Umbrella Academy has a macabre sense of humor, so it’s not very telling.

As for Gatewood, his character Raymond sounds more than a bit like Emmy Raver-Lampman’s Alison Hargreeves – a “born leader” with the “innate ability to disarm you with a look”. He’s married, and devoted to his spouse, and seems to have a wide social circle who love and adore him. But what does it mean? Is he, like Alison, creating a perfect life for himself by mind-controlling his friends and family? Or is he just a really great guy? That seems way too good to be true on a show like this, where everyone is hiding a secret.

Marin Ireland’s “no-nonsense Texas mom” Sissy doesn’t seem as much like a possible Umbrella Academy child to me, but she sounds interesting: at forty, Ireland will be portraying a “fearless”, free spirited woman who seems to be getting past a stale marriage and moving on to the next chapter of her life with fervor. She probably lives in Texas, and she obviously has kids: other than that, we don’t know too much about her, but she sounds like she could be the moral compass of the next season, like Agnes (and, to some extent, Hazel) were in the first.

All in all, this sounds like a great deal of fun, and the characters each seem to have a lot of depth and layers already: we’ll just have to wait and see whether they turn out to be long lost siblings, time-traveling assassins, or maybe even more donut-shopkeepers.

Disney+ Cancels Muppets Series (And More!)

Amidst all the good news about the upcoming Disney+ streaming platform, and its almost endless catalog of movies from Disney animation, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic, thousands of episodes from Disney Channel TV shows, and its (mostly) new,  original content, there’s still some bad news. And, partially because it’s newsworthy, and partially because I’m still bitter at Disney+ for making me use the + symbol (why am I still mad about that?), we’re going to discuss the not-so-great headlines that last night began plaguing the Mouse House. It’s not just about Muppets, I can assure you.

However, the Muppets are the most important part of the equation, so we’ll talk about them first: Disney has officially chosen to scrap an idea for a Muppets comedy series posed to them by Josh Gad, star of Frozen and its upcoming sequel, Frozen 2. The project, titled Muppets Live Another Day, would have been a sequel to the 1984 hit, The Muppets Take Manhattan, taking place soon after the events of that film. Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis had already been brought onboard to help Gad write and produce the series: apparently, creative differences with Disney executives forced the three showrunners to leave – but now, instead of doing anything with the property, Disney+ has chosen to throw out the idea entirely. We don’t know anything about the disagreements that caused the rift, or whether this is because of Disney’s decision, announced recently at the D23 Expo, to reboot Jim Henson’s The Muppet Show: perhaps two would have been too much Muppet material for the streaming service? Either way, this does make one wonder whether Josh Gad will run into this problem again as he sets out to produce a live-action remake of Disney’s The Hunchback Of Notre-Dame – it’s not easy being Olaf.

At the same time, a smaller bombshell dropped: Disney has scrapped a comedy series titled Four Dads, which would have been their first property focused on LGBTQ characters – while this story hasn’t been making the rounds as much as the Muppets, it’s potentially more devastating. Disney’s commitment to diversity, and especially LGBTQ representation, is still weak: while a Love, Simon spinoff series based on the gay romance film of the same name is coming to Disney+, it is rumored to be significantly different from the film. And as for gay characters in Disney films, they’re few and far between (and when they do show up, they’re stereotypes: next year’s Jungle Cruise will mark the appearance of Disney’s first officially out gay character, portrayed by a straight actor – the character is rumored to be very campy, effeminate, and played for laughs: great work, Disney).

These aren’t the first Disney+ shows to get tossed in the trash. Back in August, it was reported that Book Of Enchantment, a series about the origins of iconic Disney villains such as Ursula, Maleficent, The Beast, and The Wicked Queen, was scrapped because the studio felt it was too dark, even after significant rewrites by Jason Reed, who apparently tried unsuccessfully to insert more humor into the show’s scripts. Personally, that whole idea sounded really cool, so I’m not forgiving Disney for this one – even if they do feel like Disney+ should be squeaky-clean: I mean, seriously, how dark could it have been?

The three cancellations may not have much in common, but it certainly looks like Disney has a very clear picture of what their streaming service should be: whether it’s a good picture is hard to tell. Will we end up missing these shows in the long run? Share your thoughts in the comments below!